The music therapy program at UA was created in 1984, and it is the only degree program in the state of Alabama to offer a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, which leads to eligibility for professional certification. Prospective music therapy students audition for acceptance into the SOM as well as apply for admittance into the university. The music therapy degree involves the traditional music courses, such as applied lessons and music theory and history course sequence; however, music therapy students learn guitar during the freshmen year and utilize the guitar, piano, and voice for clinical applications. Most of the music used in music therapy sessions involves patient preferred music, which means that students learn repertoire that spans various genres across multiple decades, such as pop, country, Motown, musicals, religious, etc..
The music therapy program at UA is unique due to a strong clinical training emphasis. Music therapy students experience a scaffolding approach, in which they observe music therapy sessions starting their first semester in school. Student expectations and involvement increases throughout the freshmen and sophomore years; students in their junior and senior year have multiple sessions per week. Student gain clinical experience serving various populations in the community.
Our music therapy program teaches students how to measure behavior and how to document progress utilizing appropriate jargon for each setting; this allows the students to be successful in securing jobs and keeping jobs, especially since administrators want to know why they are paying the same amount of money for a music therapist as a physical therapist. They also want to be able to see how a music therapist differs from a volunteer who sings, and it is important that music therapists can effectively communicate their approach and outcomes for a variety of populations.
The music therapy degree requires four years of on-campus coursework, followed by a six-month music therapy internship (internships in the music therapy profession are typically unpaid).